The Obama administration’s National Security Strategy is even more important because it comes at a crucial time: the international system is heavily affected by economic and financial crisis, conflict, disorder and successive natural disasters. The leading role of the US, confronted with two wars and still affected by the consequences of the current economic and financial world crisis, is therefore fundamental.

Commendable Strategic Vision

The document looks beyond the current challenges and points to the future role of the US, showing a true strategic vision. The commitment to continue to underwrite international security, strengthen and modernize the existing international institutional architecture, engage the new centers of influence, demonstrate a collaborative and cooperative approach to international matters and, above all, the determination to continue to lead are all to be commended.

The fact that the US is recognizing that acting unilaterally and “outside” the system has proven too costly, provoking a rapid hemorrhage of power and loss of moral legitimacy and demonstrating the determination to correct that approach are renewing hope that the international system will regain coherence.

Questions Remain

The question still to be answered is whether the US, faced with a full plate of challenges and tasks and therefore needing reprioritization, will be willing and capable to pay equal attention to both “new” and “old” ones, striking the right balance between them.

Russia’s reasserting behavior, for instance, is much more complex and far-reaching than strictly respecting or not the territorial integrity of its direct neighbors. However, that does not cast a shadow on the importance of US commitment to NATO – revigorated through the adoption of the new Strategic Concept – to Article V and to the strategic reassurance to all the Allies.

In relation to the EU as such, one can detect a certain “lip service” approach, without further elaboration beyond a commitment to work together with respect to “promoting democracy and prosperity in Eastern European countries.”   This is particularly worrisome at a time when the relations between the EU and NATO in defense and security matters are getting increasing attention here in Europe, given the current cooperation between the two organizations in various theatres (Somalia and Afghanistan for instance).

Moreover, while the commitment to nuclear energy and decision to continue to stay outside the ICC might well prove important points of difference, the maintenance of “coalitions of support toward common objectives” as an instrument in the US diplomatic “tool-kit” has all the chances to be looked upon with suspicion in Europe.

This document is merely an overview, of course, not a detailed outline of every facet of U.S. foreign policy.   But these are all issues we must keep an eye on moving forward.

Ioan Mircea Pascu, formerly Romania’s Minister of Defense, is a member of the European Parliament and is a member of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Advisors Group. This article is part of the NSS Review – a collection of expert analysis on the Obama Administration’s National Security Strategy.